Want a laugh? Wimmin are just the ticket

This year's Edinburgh festival is a good place to start

Share
Related Topics

There are 227 comedy shows featuring women at Edinburgh this year – a quarter of all the shows. You can spin that number either way. You can see it as a record number of women comedians. Yay! Wimmin! Or you can be surprised that, 18 years after Jenny Eclair first won the Perrier Award, only one in four comedy performers is a wimminly one. Boo! Inequality!

For a few years, the number of women performing stand-up at the Fringe has risen steadily. The first show to sell out this year? A woman's: Sarah Millican. Most talked-about newcomer? A woman: Aisling Bea became the first in 20 years to win the coveted So You Think You're Funny? award at Edinburgh's Gilded Balloon last year. Her 2013 show C'est La Bea is on every "hottest ticket" list.

It's not as if women are not given enough prominence. This year's must-sees have been bigged up everywhere: Bridget Christie, Tig Notaro, Caroline Rhea, Lucy Porter, Rachel Parris, Sara Pascoe, Claudia O'Doherty, Gemma Whelan, Abi Roberts, Harriet Kemsley, Nat Luurtsema, Mary Bourke, Ria Lina.

But while the numbers are so slow to even out, there's still a tendency to talk about "wimmin and comedy" rather than focusing on what audiences are interested in: "Who is going to make me laugh?" The upward trend is encouraging. (Hooray for the Fringe!) But its slowness, that is depressing. (Down with women being seen as a novelty act because they're supposedly some kind of minority!)

Why, still, are there fewer women? This is the question no one can really answer. It's the flipside of "Why are there so few male primary school teachers?" We don't like to believe we live in a world of stereotypes. But we do.

Of course, the stand-up circuit, where I am toiling as a newbie, has its share of pervs and bullies. While most women comics will have a favourite horror story about unwanted approaches or nasty heckles, this stuff is no serious barrier to getting through the ranks.

There is a persistent view that part of the answer must be that "women are not as funny as men". People otherwise perfectly sensible seem happy to hold this belief, while surrounded by mothers, sisters, demented female friends, quipping aunts and cuttingly funny grandmothers who make them laugh in their everyday lives. (OK, not always intentionally.)

"But men are better at stand-up," say the strangely persistent. Maybe it seems that way. But only because of the numbers bias, and comedy being intensely personal. Over 800 men to chose from but only 227 women? Of course your best fit is more likely to be a man.

No favourite female comic? You just haven't found the right woman yet. Don't lose heart. This year's Edinburgh is the place to start.

Viv Groskop is performing the one-woman show of her book 'I Laughed, I Cried: How One Woman Took On Stand-Up and (Almost) Ruined Her Life' on 18 and 19 August, 10.40pm, Le Monde. For tickets go to edfringe.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
With an eye for strategy: Stephen Fry’s General Melchett and Rowan Atkinson’s Edmund Blackadder  

What Cameron really needs is to turn this into a khaki election

Matthew Norman
An Italian policeman stands guard as migrants eat while waiting at the port of Lampedusa to board a ferry bound for Porto Empedocle in Sicily. Authorities on the Italian island of Lampedusa struggled to cope with a huge influx of newly-arrived migrants as aid organisations warned the Libya crisis means thousands more could be on their way  

Migrant boat disaster: EU must commit funds to stop many more dying

Alistair Dawber
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own